SV Business Journal Article ” You Can Date a CFO before Marriage”
“In the dark ages before the dotcom boom, Robert Weis saw a market opening among Silicon Valley startups that didn’t have the capacity to hire full-time finance chiefs. Almost three decades after he founded CFOs2Go, his operation has ballooned into a mini executive-for-hire empire. The Walnut Creek company now supplies organizations as diverse as Amazon.com Inc., Stanford University and Jamba Juice with CFOs, CIOs, accountants and IT support. Worldwide, the market for “contingent management” — or
high-echelon temporary workers — has been valued at up to $26 billion by niche research firm Staffing Industry Analysts. In an edited interview, Weis shared how his company has
grown in Silicon Valley and beyond.”
What need was CFOs2Go designed to meet?
We started in 1986. At the time, I was coming out of public accounting and venture capital. I saw a lot of the portfolio companies without the services of a CFO, which opened up the possibility of a consulting or part-time approach.
How has the market for CFOs evolved?
It has changed significantly. We went down a path of creating practice groups for diff erent types of situations. Startup and pre-IPO is a significant one. The other big one is an international group that provides CFOs to companies coming in from abroad and setting up U.S. operations, or U.S. companies setting up operations overseas.
Logistically, how does the service work?
A few ways. We actually do the direct hires — people looking for full-time CFOs — for companies you hear about all the time. ere are interim CFOs, where maybe the auditors
walked off the job or they’ve been de-listed or fired the CFO. There is a part-time CFO option, where they show up in your office one day a week, which works in some of the VC-backed companies. Th e last is a consulting model that is typically off -site but seems to
work well internationally or with technical accounting.
What types of companies make up your customer base?
In the international group, there are entrepreneurs coming here to get funding or get access to talent. ere are also established companies worth anywhere from 5 million to 150 million euros or more. Overall, we serve clients ranging from nonprofi ts and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
Is the role of a CFO itself also changing?
Technology is changing the role. There is a good opportunity in Big Data to mine for new information, even at small companies. The cost has come down to understand your markets and customers in ways that just weren’t there before. Technology has also collapsed geographic boundaries. You have to have international competencies to understand risk and potential reward.
Any examples of how technology affects the bottom line?
There are a lot of implications with IT for companies where you have to
squeeze out costs to make money — like a lot of these Software as a Service companies. When they sell a product like Quickbooks for $14 a month or whatever, there’s not a lot
of fat. There’s all kinds of technologies behind placing and fulfilling an order and customer support that need to be efficient.
When do companies typically come to you?
There are two types of people in this world: There are the people that have to suffer the consequences of a bad decision, and there are other people who can anticipate.
Some people phone us who anticipate growth and want to get to the next level. The other type of client phones you and says “My bank just gave me a forbearance letter. We’ve been out of compliance and didn’t know it.”
When did you add IT and accounting services?
Accountants2Go came around 1989,
IT2Go started about 10 years ago, and CIOs2Go is a couple of years old now. IT and finance are joined at the hip so often that I knew I wanted to get into both. You can help fill gaps in a company.
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